Review: Vitamin D Experts’ Forum, 7 April 2011 @ Wellcome Trust Conference Centre

It was comically ironic that on the hottest, sunniest day in London of 2011 so far, that approximately two-hundred people interested in vitamin D sat inside an auditorium in the Wellcome Trust Conference Centre to listen to why they should actually be outside that instant.

Despite showcasing presentations from two major names in British vitamin D advocacy (names I interviewed for my upcoming book back in September), this was largely a US-Canadian led invasion meant to recruit and entice local rebels into enacting eventual regime change in health policy…

While I myself am very familiar with virtually all of the current data and arguments in favour of – and against – vitamin D, I did find the presentations a good refresher as to why I’ve annoyed a lot of people about the subject for five or six years now. Additionally, Dr. M. Holick and Dr. R. Vieth’s presentations were a must see if only for the former’s light-hearted showmanship involving Hollywood movie clips and the latter’s ability to curb us from any excessive over-enthusiasm about vitamin D. Carole Baggerly’s telling of her breast cancer experiences was also a particularly powerful moment while Dr. William Grant remained as matter-of-fact as possible.

In the Q&A segments of the day I didn’t participate with any questions, partly because I’m spotlight shy but also because the one thing I did want to ask would have either seen my ejector seat button pushed or, more realistically, elicited a shrug from the experts (I’m not going to say what that question is, but some people might be able to guess the specific sub-topic from very recent posts here). Still, I did mingle with a few of them and some of the audience in refreshment breaks, and I was fascinated to learn why some of the latter are intrigued by vitamin D. It was a pity that there wasn’t time to hear some of their stories on the podium as personal testimony is always more fascinating than data, although not persuasive on its own.

As sponsor Mike Fischer noted at the end, if this conference had happened five or six years ago it probably wouldn’t have attracted such attention. I can attest to this as when I first became attracted to the topic the flood of patient-level information and discussion seemed just on the cusp of bursting. So, it was heartening to witness so many people there – many of them doctors or students – to learn or learn more about how they can help themselves and others in a new way. Much respect also goes to Rufus Greenbaum for organising and compering this event in a highly professional manner. A video recording and data from the presentations should be available for viewing in approximately one month.

There are two follow-up events also by The Vitamin D Association in mid-May at the same venue for those interested in more than just an overview of the particular topics of pregnancy outcomes and cancer respectively. These would be well worth attending if you have the time and inclination, or perhaps you could tell someone else about them, maybe a doctor you know of? You can read particular event information and book online here.

The metaphorical “ghost of (there being no Dr.) John Cannell” in attendance, as one audience member pointed out, was no great loss; in fact it probably, respectfully, allowed Dr. Holick great ease in challenging some of Cannell’s viewpoints and highlighting that there is no universal consensus about vitamin D because all the hoops and hurdles that determine the overall value of the substance are yet to be laid on the ground – through studies. But they all agree that it has immense potential.

Make no mistake, more and more people are realising that vitamin D is not just some quack fad; the number of supporters is growing and the revolution, when it comes, will not be prescribed.

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